I’ve only taught for about four years so this may not be a general thing. I’ve noticed that when I teach Kant’s ethics, the people who are LDS don’t particularly like it. Actually, the people who are very religious and very LDS, but have critical and analytical thinking skills seem to like it. But those are the rarity. I mean the people who come from an LDS background, are who claim to be that religion, but they aren’t really religious. I would’ve thought that they would have liked deontological ethics because it would somewhat reflect their view of God and God’s laws and somehow it’s congruent with the moral law. But as I thought about it, it probably makes sense for Mormons not to like it.
Just a recap: Kant’s ethics basically starts off by saying there’s an absolute right or wrong. There are no contexts or situations; it is absolutely right or wrong. So for example, if slavery is wrong today, then it’s wrong for all time. It just happens that the people back then got it wrong (as opposed to the saying “it was right for them.” Kant would disagree with that view.)
Mormons have a different view of the afterlife. There are three “levels” of heaven: the terrestrial kingdom, the telestrial kingdom, and the celestial kingdom. Now here’s the kicker: what you do in this life determines which heaven you’re going to go into. In other words, there are situations and contexts. Thus, it isn’t written in stone, it’s not a strong of a view as Kant’s ethics claims to be. Now given this, it makes sense that non-religious LDS people don’t like Kant’s ethics: it’s too rigid, too non-contextual and part of their belief system isn’t congruent with that.
Then it hit me, this is a lot with what the pragmatists were saying. The experiences in life is what bears out your truth, your beliefs in life. Pragmatists like William James says that you have a will to believe if it coheres with the rest of your beliefs. This works out well with what the Mormons were reacting against with Kant’s ethics. Since his ethics are too structured, it doesn’t cohere with the Mormon belief. No wonder Mormons don’t like Kant’s ethics.
On the otherhand, I’ve mentioned before that the really critical thinkers do like Kant. But I’ve also noticed that those who claim to be Mormons by name but know absolutely nothing about the Mormon religion somewhat like Kant. After investigating, it’s because they view the afterlife as a one-shot deal, there’s only one heaven and hell. But they obviously don’t know what their beliefs are supposed to be. So I think it’s structured like this.
Mormons by name—–“Standard”, somewhat religious Mormons—–Critical Thinking Mormons
It’s the “standard”, somewhat religious Mormons that don’t like Kant. Maybe they like Pragmatism? I’ve never thought of teaching it that route, but perhaps I’ll give it a try sometime.